The task of a teacher in history and humanities

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I feel for Farah Khairat (Comment, 30/11), faced with insensitive and bludgeoning bureaucrats censoring teachers’ discussion of contemporary politics. Trying to direct teachers and their students not to discuss the Middle East conflict was sure to fail and unsurprisingly achieved the opposite result. It is important that students are given the tools to understand the terrible events unfolding in Israel and Gaza. This should be done in an objective and dispassionate way, avoiding advocacy or polemical commentary for either side. Teachers have a crucial role in giving students the means to understand the world and reach their own conclusions free of any state censorship or personal opinions.
Pier Paolo De Carlo, Ascot Vale

Please, just present the facts
It is understandable that a humanities teacher like Farah Khairat needs to discuss the Gaza war with her students. But as a teacher, she should present the facts and not teach according to her personal views. Regarding this horrendous war, it’s important to place it in the context of the Palestinians being badly treated since Israel was established in 1948, which is not acceptable. However, the teacher needs to place that in the context of the necessity for Israel to be established after Jewish people had been badly treated for about 2000 years before then. Marguerite Marshall, Eltham

The aim is to educate, not indoctrinate
I was teaching in an independent school in 1970 when protests against the Vietnam War were at their height. I recall my principal speaking to a staff meeting on the morning of the largest of them where he defended the right of senior students to attend. From memory, he quoted liberal political philosopher John Stuart Mill to justify the students’ right to protest. He also welcomed informed discussion in the classroom of the war and its implications, as he did of many controversial social and political issues. All he asked of the staff was that they remembered their responsibility to educate, not indoctrinate. I’m sure he would have welcomed Farah Khairat on his staff, not castigated her or threatened her with disciplinary action.
Terry Hayes, Yarraville

There needs to be balance and context
Farah Khairat expresses surprise that as a teacher, her school management has told her not to speak to her students about the conflict in the Middle East. She shouldn’t be surprised. The reason is in her description of what she would have sought to discuss with them – ″⁣the thousands killed and trapped beneath rubble″⁣. No context, no mention of the hostages, of the horrific massacre which started this war, nor of the terrorist organisation which runs Gaza and hides behind the civilians who have become its victims. Until she provides a balanced and historically accurate perspective on events to her students, she should stick to the curriculum.
Paul Roberts, Miranda

Gaza is a tragedy, but there are two sides to it
Farah Khairat writes about her concerns about restrictions on her ability as a teacher to talk about the situation in Gaza. However, she demonstrates exactly why there must be such restrictions. As a teacher, Khairat has a responsibility to always present history and current affairs in a balanced way. It is difficult to see how she could do this when she uses highly emotive phrases such as “thousands of children and dozens of teachers and school staff killed in Gaza” and “one Palestinian child killed every 10 minutes”.
However, she makes no mention that Hamas is a registered terrorist organisation, that Hamas started the current conflict by undertaking a terrorist raid in Israel, killing more than 1000 people, that Hamas still holds about 150 hostages. What is happening in Gaza is a tragedy but, as in all conflicts, there are two sides and tragedies are occurring on both sides.
If Khairat wants the right to talk about this conflict, then she needs to show that she can do this in a balanced and unbiased manner.
John Rosenberg, South Melbourne


In Albanese’s hands
After a decade of incompetence from the Coalition, many had high hopes of the Albanese Labor government (″⁣Could Albanese be a one-and-done prime minister?″⁣, 30/11). After a year or so, as columnist Shaun Carney explains, disappointment abounds.
Apart from cost-of-living concerns, an inability to confront big oil over the environment and relatively simple things like the complete inaction over the PwC scandal (angry words don’t count) have given the impression that the big end of town continues to do as it pleases with impunity.
A solution for Anthony Albanese is in front of his nose: the stage 3 tax cuts. On Wednesday, he again confirmed the intention to keep a plan that benefits only the wealthy. Albanese and Treasurer Jim Chalmers should show some courage and restructure the cuts so that the benefit goes to those who really need it and away from those who don’t, who incidentally are unlikely to vote Labor, ever. Cost-of-living help provided, votes protected, it is a no-brainer. Peter Dutton and the Coalition will not like it, but then they are against everything anyhow.
If Labor can’t manage this, then perhaps it doesn’t deserve a second term.
Ross Hudson, Mount Martha

Don’t follow Dutton
Contrary to Shaun Carney’s view, Anthony Albanese merely has to show he’s not Peter Dutton to win another term, but he may have to accommodate the Greens as well.
Bill Pell, Emerald

Control prices
When you have a leak in the roof and your plumber tries and fails 13 times, it’s time to get a new plumber. In the same way, when interest rates are put up 13 times to little effect, it’s time to think again. The fix is not working.
Meanwhile, the head of the Reserve Bank blames going to the dentist for inflation. The real example for the times is insurance companies putting up premiums 30 to 40 per cent in one year. The days of price regulation through competition and fair practice are gone. The retail world, where inflation is measured, now works on tradesmen’s rules where you jack the price up until they stop saying yes – add supply shortages and the price rises never stop.
Tackling inflation needs to start by using some direct price control instead of outdated indirect methods.
Don Relf, Mentone

There are solutions
The article ″⁣There is no quick fix to the housing affordability crisis″⁣ (29/11) paints a grim picture of the housing crisis. Drastic action is required.
How about flipping the tax benefits on housing from investors to genuine home owners?
Why should an investor on his 12th property be able to claim a loss against other income but a home owner cannot? The investor has other tax perks to claim such as depreciation or building allowance, which for reasons that elude me cannot be claimed by a home owner.
It would be easy to determine the market rent of a house. A genuine home owner should be able to claim all expenses above this amount, including mortgage interest, insurance, rates and repairs, against other income, which in most cases will be employment income. This should ease the pain for home owners with mortgages, who are doing it tough. The cost can be funded by removing the tax advantages given to investors. They have had this benefit for years, so a rebalancing is well overdue.
If this does not cover the cost, scrap the stage 3 tax cuts.
Barry Lizmore, Ocean Grove

Few answers
Your correspondent (Letters, 29/11) asks why do the 2 million people of Gaza need bomb shelters in the first place?
The 9 million people of Israel have bomb shelters in their homes and streets because they are constantly facing missile attacks from Gaza in the south and Hezbollah in the north. They have built underground hospitals and blood banks so that these life-saving facilities can operate while Israel is being attacked on multiple fronts.
There seems to be lots of criticism of Israel and little criticism of Hamas and, ultimately, few solutions about how Israelis and Palestinians can live together.
Miriam Zajac, Caulfield

Opposite effect
Your contributor, Farah Khairat, shows exactly why schools may have felt the need to ban discussion about the conflict now going on in the Middle East (“Why I refuse to stay silent on Gaza”, 30/11). While she describes heartbreaking scenes in Gaza, she neglects entirely to mention Hamas’ horrific attack on Israeli civilians on October 7 – including the taking of hostages – which triggered this current conflict. She writes about not allowing personal views to enter discussions, yet she refers only to “Israeli aggression”.
It is revealing that her descriptions of civilian suffering exclude the savagery inflicted by Hamas on October 7, thus casting doubt on her ability to lead an impartial discussion, and perhaps inadvertently reinforcing the school’s policy.
Arlene Murkies, Brighton

No censorship, please
I agree with Farah Khairat. I deplore the instruction from her school not to speak about the conflict in the Middle East with curious students. Open discussion in the guided environment provided at school will help them to discern information they are exposed to from other sources, promoting understanding and acceptance of alternative points of view. Censorship creates a void in which biased views can develop from selective sources of information.
Students deserve the opportunity to discuss issues of interest and concern to them.
Gary Smith, Rippleside

Of independent mind
I have taught about the Arab-Israeli conflict for more than 30 years. At the end of the course my students would have no idea where my sympathies lie. This is as it should be.
The greatest gift we can give students is to nurture them as independent thinkers who are well equipped to make informed decisions for themselves as they enter adult life. Therefore, I take some issue with Farah Khairat’s article.
On the one hand, she says, “I appreciate that personal politics and beliefs [of teachers] should not be brought into the classroom.” But she then lists the litany of her grievances against Israel’s recent role in Gaza that she would like to teach, with no mention of the Hamas attack of October 7. Is this really how she suggests history should be taught? If so, I don’t blame her educational masters in silencing her.
Andrew Kokic,
Wattle Grove, NSW

The job at hand
I became a teacher to provide students with a mechanism for forming their own conclusions on controversial issues; getting them to think about the world beyond their own backyard. Studying conflicts and identifying both sides of an issue empowers students to form their own views on serious disagreements that arise both at home and internationally. That was my job.
Graeme Rose, Wangaratta

Customers forgotten
My local Commonwealth Bank in Ashburton is going up for auction soon. Its last day will be December 8 and, there will be no ATMs available. This is after losing Bank of Melbourne, Westpac and ANZ branches in Ashburton. The only one left now is Bendigo Bank.
For me, and I am sure I can speak for other Commonwealth clients, losing not just the bank but ATMs is totally unacceptable. Many clients who use that branch still use passbooks. I have seen them. There would also be many clients who don’t drive or are unable to drive very far. All the nearest branches are at least 20 to 30 minutes away.
Compounding the problem is not being able to have face-to-face contact with bank staff. This is so inconvenient and annoying as I find it extremely difficult to talk to anyone over the phone. I have a hearing impairment and even when I tell the operator of my disability, they do not always take note and speak clearly. I can’t rely on someone to help me every time I might need to speak to someone on the phone, not to mention having difficulties hearing the numerous instructions to put me on to the right operator.
It appears the motto for many big businesses is profit before people.
Rosemary Berrell, Ashburton

Not good enough
Recently I changed my credit card at the local ANZ branch. I received a letter that it was approved, and it would be available in seven days at the Westfield branch, about 10 kilometres from my home and local branch.
At the Westfield branch to collect the card, I joined a queue of 26, and waited 40 minutes until I was served. Alas, my new card had not arrived. Only after I insisted that I be told when the card was available, the staff member agreed to advise me by email.
This bank, and others, advertise that they are there to service you, their loyal customer. I am in my late 80s, and I got the feeling that ANZ, like Qantas, has no respect for their customers. The cost cutting is so bad that there are no longer any chairs to use while waiting, and the few staff available are under huge stress.
Keith Lierse, Templestowe

Taxing times
The simplest solution on taxes would be to modify the stage 3 tax cuts and give all taxpayers, regardless of income, a tax cut of $14 a fortnight (“Stage 3 tax cuts ‘will increase inflation’,” 30/11). I’ll otherwise be receiving a tax cut of around $230 a fortnight, which I don’t need.
And the $14 a fortnight would be very useful for most people in paying for non-discretionary expenses such as haircuts and dental fillings.
Wayne Robinson, Kingsley


Referring to Nick Bryant’s opinion piece (29/11), Donald Trump is not smart enough to rewrite history.
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South

With the crossbench introducing a pill bill (″⁣Pill-test push as ALP open to dope debate″⁣, 30/11), will a rolling joint bill naturally follow?
Paul Custance, Highett

If the Greeks think the British will part with their treasures, they must have lost their marbles.
George Stockman, Berwick

What’s so bad about potholes? When I was young, we used to live in a pothole (apologies to
Monty Python).
Greg Curtin, Nunawading

No need to wait for a future controlled by AI, it’s already here. In our household, the whole environment is determined by CatGPT: the priorities depend on what suits our feline family member.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale

As I approach retirement, I am constantly asked how I will spend my time. My answer: get arrested for protesting against lack of action on climate change.
Deborah Burbridge, Strathmore

The Israelis would give peace a better chance if they were to remove Netanyahu as their leader. John Walsh, Watsonia

Your correspondent describes the sudden jump in the price of his Weet-Bix from $4 to $5 as ″⁣a hefty 20 per cent increase″⁣ (Letters, 30/11). It’s even worse: a $1 rise from $4 is actually 25 per cent.
Peter Price, Southbank

With the SEC being a battery farm, can we expect a crop of button batteries in spring?
Joan Segrave, Healesville

I am anti-fire ants. Can the authorities use the fire brigade to eradicate them?
Steve Barrett, Glenbrook

AFL, leave father/son draft picks alone. Fans love seeing sons of guns come to their clubs.
Leigh O’Connor, Ormond

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